Following the ancient religious principle of alms for the poor, the Church of England is reportedly to back a £1bn investment in more than 300 branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The church’s commissioners, who manage the institutions £5.5bn worth of investments, have agreed to plough an extraordinary sum into a consortium being led by former trade minister Lord Davies, Sky News have reported.
The move comes a week after a parliamentary investigation into banking – which included Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – published a broad spectrum of possible reforms that could make UK financiers more ethical.
The exact value of the Anglican investment in the group attempted to buy a stake in the 316 RBS branches is unknown, but reports estimate their slice of could measure in the millions.
The other members of the bidding group are Corsair Capital, a private equity firm where Lord Davies is a partner; Centerbridge, an American investment firm; RIT Capital, which is headed by Lord Rothschild; and Standard Life, the insurance and pensions group.
Industry insiders reportedly believe the Church’s involvement will enhance the investor’s appeal to the board of RBS and the Treasury, who are likely to want to be seen to accept the most ethical offer.
The £1bn government auction, which comes ahead of an initial public offering on the stock market, also features bids from around two dozen City institutions such as Foreign & Colonial, Schroders and Threadneedle Investments, and private equity firms Blackstone and AnaCap.
All of the bidders are now in the final stages of the process, with a decision expected from RBS about the preferred buyer in the coming weeks.